By Bileh Jelan @BilehJelan
Addis Abeba, July 12/2021 – The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) issued a statement discussing the arrest of Awlo and Ethio-Forum journalists and staff members and urging authorities to follow due process and release the detained journalists and staff members if court orders were not issued for their arrests.
“The EHRC has been closely monitoring the situation of 21 staff members and journalists of Ethio-Forum and Awlo Media including Bekalu Alamrew, Yayesew Shimeles, Fanuel Kinfu, Abebe Bayu, Melkam Fire Yimam, Fikirte Yunus, Wintana Berhe and Meheret Gebrekirstos who have been in detention since being taken by federal security forces on June 30, July 1 and July 2, 2021,” the statement read.
The EHRC also disclosed that the Federal Police have confirmed the release of three of the 21 detainees and another detained have been released on July 6, 2021. The remaining detainees according to the Federal Police are suspects under investigation and were remanded in custody by court orders. The statement read, “The Commission is gravely concerned that, as of the time of publication of this statement, it is yet to see the said court order or visit the detainees and that the detainees have not been granted visitation rights by their lawyer and/or their families. “
The statement went on to discuss the constitutional right of detainees guaranteed under article 19 of the federal constitution which states in sub-article 3, “Persons arrested have the right to be brought before a court within 48 hours of their arrest. Such time shall not include the time reasonably required for the journey from the place of arrest to the court. On appearing before a court, they have the right to be given prompt and specific explanation of the reasons for their arrest due to the alleged crime committed.” The rights commision also argued that the right to visitation are basic rights and as legal principle is meant to ascertain the wellbeing and security of detained persons .
EHRC Commissioner Daniel Bekele (PhD) was quoted in the statement saying, “All detentions that do not follow due process damage trust in the legal and justice system and such practices must cease immediately. The Chief Commissioner also said that the Commission will continue to do all necessary to be able to visit the detainees and monitor the condition of their detention.”
The statement by the rights commision comes 12 days after the arrests were first reported on July 02, 2021. It also comes in the backdrop of a fresh wave of crackdown on Tigrayan civilians in the capital Addis Abeba. The rights commision at the time said it was monitoring reports of arrests of media personnel in Addis Abeba as well as residents of Tigray origin suspected of connection with the ongoing situation in the region and warned, “Such measures could aggravate the public‘s concerns on the risk of ethnic profiling.” The Federal Police spokesperson at the time said, “The arrested journalist were under investigation and no comments can be made on the ongoing investigation.” AS